Infralapsarianism, sublapsarianism, and supralapsarianism are theological positions within the Reformed tradition that pertain to the order and logical sequence of God’s decrees in relation to the Fall of humanity and the doctrine of predestination. These doctrines are part of the broader discussion on the sovereignty of God and human responsibility.
While this may not be a talking point for everyday Christian conversations, nore is it and an essential belief necessary unto salvation, it is still valuable to the development, understanding, and analysis of the subject of Theology.
“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (Eph 1:11).
Infralapsarianism, also known as “sublapsarianism” or “postlapsarianism,” teaches that God’s decrees were made in logical order with the Fall of humanity as the starting point. According to this view, the logical sequence of events are as follows:
a) God decreed to elect some individuals to salvation and to pass over others (unconditional election) before the foundation of the world.
b) God decreed to permit the Fall of humanity into sin (the lapse or the fall) in order to display His justice and mercy.
c) God decreed to provide salvation through Jesus Christ for the fallen and elect individuals.
Infralapsarianism places the decree of election after the decree of the Fall, suggesting that God responded to the entrance of sin into the world by providing a plan of redemption. In other words, this view is that God permitted the fall, then responded with the grace of salvation. This view is the most widely held by the majority of the reformed tradition.
Sublapsarianism is a term sometimes used interchangeably with infralapsarianism, as both positions share similar views. However, some scholars distinguish sublapsarianism as a variant of infralapsarianism with a narrower focus.
Sublapsarians emphasize the specific condition of fallen humanity and highlights the scope and extent of God’s redemptive plan. They argue that God’s decree of election is made in view of the fallen human condition and that the purpose of election is to save some individuals from the fallen human race.
The difference between infralapsarianism and sublapsarianism so small that is is often difficult for people to make the distinction. Quintessentially, the focus is on whether God first decreed to provide salvation and then chose some to be saved (the elect), or that God chose to provide salvation to the elect as a response to the fall of mankind.
Supralapsarianism takes a different perspective on the logical order of God’s decrees. According to supralapsarianism:
a) God decreed to elect some individuals to salvation and to condemn others (double predestination) “before” the foundation of the world.
b) God decreed to create humanity and permit the Fall in order to carry out His decree of election and reprobation.
c) God decreed to provide salvation through Jesus Christ for the elect.
Supralapsarianism places the decree of election before the decree of the Fall, suggesting that God’s primary purpose was to glorify Himself through the display of His sovereign choice in election and reprobation.
If you are like most people you are still scratching your head to understand these concepts. At the end of the day, none of these positions prove the order of God’s decrees, but rather offer a way to understand them. It is important to note that these positions are matters of theological debate and interpretation within the Reformed tradition. Different Reformed theologians and denominations may hold varying views on the precise order of God’s decrees and the relationship between predestination and the Fall. Always keep in mind that these are theological positions by which to explain the fall of humanity through the lens of Calvinism.